49ers 53-man roster projection: Running Back

With the start of training camp about three weeks away, now is the perfect time to look at each of the position groups on the San Francisco 49ers roster and predict who will make the 53-man roster.

We started with quarterbacks, and today it’s time to focus on the running backs.

On the roster: Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, Tyrion Davis-Price, Jeff Wilson Jr, JaMycal Hasty, Jordan Mason, Kyle Juszczyk (FB), Josh Hokit (FB)

Analysis: The 49ers running game was up and down in 2021. 

Rookie Elijah Mitchell was a workhorse, gaining 963 yards and scoring five touchdowns on 207 carries. While those numbers were solid, Mitchell struggled to stay healthy, missing six games and four of the last eight in the regular season. 

The injuries to Mitchell and an overall lack of explosiveness in the run game led to wide receiver Deebo Samuel being utilized extensively out of the backfield over the final eight games of the regular season and throughout the playoffs. 

Over those final eleven weeks, the 49ers running game minus Samuel and Jimmy Garoppolo averaged only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt and scored four touchdowns. Samuel, meanwhile, gained an average of six yards per attempt and ran for six scores. 

Trey Sermon never became the player San Francisco envisioned when they took him in the third round. Sermon struggled to keep his running path tight to his blockers and saw limited action even with Mitchell out of the lineup. 

Sermon’s ineffectiveness and the number of injuries this group suffered last season led to the 49ers again using a third-round pick on a running back this offseason, Tyrion Davis-Price. 

Price is like what San Francisco already has in the backfield, and he is best between the tackles like Mitchell and thrives with more carries like Sermon. A bruising runner, it will be interesting to see how Davis-Price transitions to the NFL.

Question mark: Can the running backs stay healthy in 2022?

The running back room was hit exceptionally hard last season. San Francisco lost Raheem Mostert two carries into the season opener, and the following week, Elijah Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty went down to injury in Philadelphia. 

Adding Davis-Price will help the depth at running back; however, it makes for interesting scenarios around who will make the final roster. If Trey Sermon stays, that will leave only one open spot to be filled between Jeff Wilson Jr, JaMycal Hasty, and undrafted free agent rookie Jordan Mason. 

Wilson’s ability to run, block, and play special teams gives him the edge. Hasty was San Francisco’s third-down back last season, but he was not very productive there. Mason has the size to be an every-down back and is explosive. He may be able to leapfrog the two veterans if he shows he can also fill in on special teams. 

53-man Roster Projection: (5) Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, Tyrion Davis-Price, Jeff Wilson Jr, Kyle Juszczyk (FB). San Francisco will try to get Hasty and Mason on to the practice squad.

This article has 7 Comments

  1. Jack
    I agree, a good analysis. I would just add a couple of points:
    * 9ers run game is changing from outside zone to inside zone in 2023. Lance will operate from the shotgun, VS JG from under center. In 2021 season, Elijah Mitchell averaged more YPC running outside VS Inside zone.
    * In college, Tyrion Davis-Price, Trey Sermon and Mason, all played with a QB playing from the Shotgun and are more effective running inside VS outside.
    * Sermon will get a good look during the pre season. If he doesn’t improve from last season, he could be cut. Same with JaMycal Hasty. Mason is IMO, a sleeper who will improve with playing time.
    * Elijah Mitchell will remain the #1 RB, but TDP get ~40% – 45% of the plays. Mason is IMO, a sleeper who will improve as the season progresses, and will get playing time by week 12.

      1. Jack
        Thanks for the good film breakdown
        * I didn’t mean to imply that Mitchell wasn’t capable of playing with a QB in the gun, VS under center, my bad!
        * Your film shows Mitchell is not that good at planting his foot and making a cut and IMO, why he had more success running outside zone, than inside zone. It does show his ability to exploit the crease the O-Line gives him and his ability to lean into tacklers and pick up a few extra yards. TDP should help keep Mitchell healthy.
        * I agree with your comment on how a RB is dependent on the O-Line giving them a lane to run in. And that brings me back to questioning the 9ers IOL, and how successful KS’s run first philosophy will depend on them!
        * I question Brendel’s ability to call the “MIKE PROTECTIONS” in a 3 x 3 protection. An experienced QB would normally make those calls, but with an inexperienced QB like Lance, the Center should make the calls.
        * O-Line Communication is essential for both the RB and QB’s success, can Brendel make those calls? I’m curious, what your opinion is?

        1. Good points, Geep! I like this Mason guy. I think he will surprise many in the camp. I see Sermon leaving unless major improvement is shown. Hasty is on the practice team for sure. I have my eyes on Wilson to see if he has lost a step from that injury. Price is also interesting and maybe a better Sermon?

  2. On the bright side we won’t have to endure anymore Baker Mayfield Insurance commercials.

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